Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere – it blasts you with ads for things that you’ve looked at online, suggests the next word when you’re writing email, identifies incorrect grammar and spelling in a document, and more.
Now systems such as ChatGPT can actually write whole documents for you, given an appropriate question or command. Although using a document totally generated by ChatGPT is unethical in many ways (plagiarism among them), there can be some value in using artificial intelligence as a tool for prewriting, to help you generate ideas and information for essays.
One way to use ChatGPT or other similar systems is to ask it to write a thesis sentence on a particular topic. Another way of using AI for prewriting is to ask it to write a thesis sentence plus an outline about a topic. Although the product is often formulaic and may not mirror your own thoughts, that product may still help you understand the characteristics of thesis sentences, or may help you generate some ideas in order to draft your own support for an essay. It may be useful to look at what AI creates and ask yourself, “What would I have done differently?” in order to generate your own content.
The main idea here is that AI is a tool and not an end product. If used sparingly, judiciously, and cautiously, it’s one of many ways to jumpstart your own thoughts and prewrite.
Know what you’re getting into if you decide to use any AI tool to prewrite. AI:
- stores your personal information and can use it as it sees fit – you lose control over any personal data you input
- draws from any and all online information, whether or not that information is validated in a journal article or is a rant in someone’s personal blog
- doesn’t consistently cite sources, and thus plagiarizes by omitting to cite
That’s why AI may be useful as a way to generate ideas for writing, which you then work with substantially, and not appropriate to generate the actual writing itself.